Communication, communication, communication

I’m currently covering a maternity leave in-house at Slimming World’s head office. I was their Internal Comms writer back in 2007, but I left to return to agency side – and it’s really interesting looking at the organisation through my now-older, more experienced eyes.

Having not only survived, but grown through the recession, Slimming World is now the UK’s largest slimming organisation – and it’s set to get even bigger. So how is it doing it?

I always thought it was simply down to the people: from top to tail, the company is made up of people who invest themselves heart-and-soul in the mission of ‘touching hearts and changing lives’. But I think there’s something else feeding into that (and vice versa). It’s the value that Slimming World places on communication at every level. I’ve worked with and for a lot of businesses over the years, and not one touches them for quality of written information, training and sharing. Learning and best practice is gathered from the field (which consists of many thousands of slimming groups), and then wholeheartedly shared and celebrated through a network of Team, District and Field Managers. It then goes on to inform monthly newsletters, online content and training programmes produced at Head Office.

The process, while structured, feels incredibly fluid and boundless – because there’s such excitement within the organisation for new ideas and better ways of doing things. The sense of shared vision is unique, in my experience at least.

Internal communications are so often relegated or forgotten in big organisations. As long as the customer sees the “right image” in marketing materials and external comms, that’s enough. The odd staff newsletter may be issued with key messages from the top, but they’re often flimsy, meaningless – and worst, downright patronising. Done for the sake of being seen to do something.

Great communication, on the other hand, is empowering. It’s full of practical, business-enhancing ideas that people can try for themselves. Full of opportunities to talk back – to share insights and inform future business moves. Sometimes it’s hard to care enough about what you do to communicate with genuine passion – and that’s fine. You have to be realistic: it’s hard to get excited about manufacturing bollards.

But what many a big cheese can learn is that when you give everyone in an organisation the power and space to share ideas in all directions, great things happen. Staff retention increases. Products and services get better and better. Profits grow. Customers believe in you, because you’re speaking to them with the same consistency and meaning that you exercise internally. And so the wheel goes round.

Communication builds community. Make yours a vibrant one.